There’s something about Florence. With no shortage of fine restaurants and fashion boutiques, colorful markets and a huge collection of Renaissance art, people seem to have a real soft spot for this city. The dreamy sunsets, the twisting medieval streets, the gelato shops…it’s easy to fall under the spell. We certainly did and so did our almost 3-year old son. Here’s how you can too:
Portrait Firenze: The newest addition to the Lungarno Collection’s mini-chain of Florentine properties just swung open its doors this week — and it’s a real stunner. Promising to be the best in its class, the hotel will offer a uniquely personalized experience tailored specifically to each guest’s needs and preferences even before they arrive. Need help tracking down a particular vintage? Prefer a private after-hours Galileo Museum tour for the kids? They’re on it. Plenty of connecting rooms, suite layouts and 24 hour service make it a great choice for discerning families.
The hotel shares a city square with its two sister Ferragamo-family owned properties — Hotel Continentale, a stylish boutique gem designed with romantic touches and retro glamour, and Hotel Gallery Art, a modern masterpiece that mixes high design with contemporary art. Our vote goes to any of these three — their location right next to the Ponte Vecchio could not be any more central.
Uffizi Gallery: No stay in Florence would be complete without a trip to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most visited museums in the world. Yes, it’s painfully crowded and yes, there are lines everywhere (even for those with advance ticket reservations) but it’s worth at least a full two hours to take in the enormous collection of Italian Renaissance Art housed here. Give the kids a break at the rooftop cafe, where you can grab an espresso and they can enjoy the fresh air with fantastic views.
Academia Gallery: “Where’d his pants go?” was the question on our 3 year’s old mind as we entered the grand atrium of the Academia where Michaelangelo’s David is stationed. Get a good look at the world’s most famous sculpture because the picture police are serious about their no photo policy here.
Boboli Gardens: It’s all uphill, but don’t quit until you climb to the upper level rose garden at the very top, where birds sing in three part harmony, or at least it seems. Truly one of the most picturesque spots we have ever been, with stunning views of the whole city. Take your time exploring the park’s eleven acres of fountains and statues, cypress tree lined pathways and giant manicured lawns.
Piazza Repubblica Carousel: This antique carousel in Piazza della Repubblica dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Its twenty or so ponies and two gilded king’s carriages have since been restored, making it a lovely stop on the itinerary for families with young kids in tow. Go for a spin at night, when its rows of Edison bulbs illuminate the piazza.
Mercato Centrale: Florence’s cast-iron covered foodie market stands tall in the center of Piazza San Lorenzo, surrounded by open air stalls selling souvenirs, t-shirts, and leather goods. Its ground floor is home to 30 or more fruit and vegetable vendors, butchers, bakers, wine and olive oil merchants, plus a few historic sandwich shops and deli counters that have been in the same spot for years. The upper floor has just re-opened after a total revamp and now features a brand new cooking school, an enoteca offering wine tastings, a sit down restaurant, pizzeria, bookshop and bank. Open every day from 9 am until midnight.
The Duomo: Some sights are worth seeing, and the Duomo is one of them. Admission is gratis and the line moves quick to get inside the city’s most iconic landmark. Its spectacular red-tiled dome can be seen from all over the city, dominating the skyline.
Il Santo Bevatore: The frontrunner for the best meal we had in Florence, this hip little local’s secret on the south side of the Arno serves inspired Tuscan fare with a creative twist. The dining room is smart and simple with dark wood throughout and wine bottles lining the walls. Their version of tagliolini with fava and mint is a dish I still think about at least once every day. Reservations are a good idea since the place fills up quickly — not surprising given the level of talent here and relatively bargain prices.
Buca Mario: This family-run osteria delivers an authentic Tuscan experience in a subterranean dining room with a genuinely convivial atmosphere. A great place to try the city’s specialty, their bistecca florentina — a rare to medium rare slab of porterhouse — lives up to the hype. Our check came with lemoncello and our son was the recipient of a number of “bellissimo!”s as he made his way to the exit, where we were handed a box of homemade biscotti on the way out. What’s not to love about this place?
Cestello: The wine list is extensive and service is refined at Cestello, Florence’s self-aware, upscale seafood shrine. The perfect place to celebrate, and a nice break from the pasta and steak you’ve been eating all week. Waiters dash between tables explaining the menu inside and out and inviting diners to pick from today’s catch (displayed in a glass encased mini fish market up front) for the chef to prepare any way of your choosing. Start with a giant crudo tower and you wont be disappointed — though you may be broke before dessert.
La Bussola: The best pizza in Firenze? La Bussola makes a very good case for the title with their Neapolitan-style pies like the Affumicata (mozzerella, scamorza and smoked ham) and Fiorentina (tomato, mozzerella, tuscan salami and peppers.) Tagliolini with truffles is also a winning dish. It’s a bit touristy, but who cares — the food is good.
Enoteca Alessi: This friendly little winebar situated close the Duomo is the perfect spot for a midday break, with Amarone, Brunello or Barolo by the glass and artisanal platters of Tuscan meats and cheeses on offer. They even let us squeeze our stroller in next to the table while our son took an afternoon snooze. A staircase leading down to the lower level reveals an enormous selection of bottles in their cellar – all available to purchase and enjoy at a table in the enoteca.
Address: Lungarno Acciaiuoli 4 50123 Florence
Phone: +39 055 2726 4000
Address: Vicolo dell’Oro 6r, 50123 Florence
Phone: +39 055 27262
Hotel Gallery Art
Address: Vicolo dell’Oro, 5, 50123 Florence
Phone: + 39 055 27263
Address: Via della Ninna, 5, Florence, Tuscany, 50122
Phone: +39 055 2388651
Address: Via Ricasoli 58-60, 50122
Phone: +39 0552388609
Piazza Repubblica Carousel
Address: Piazza della Repubblica
Address: Piazza Duomo
Address: Piazza Pitti, Florence
Phone: +39 0552651838
Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale – Via dell’Ariento 50123 Firenze
Phone: +39 0552399798
Address: Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16/r, Florence
Phone: +39 055 214179
Il Santo Bevatore
Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 64r, Florence
Phone: 39 055 211264
Address: Piazza del Cestello 8, 50100 Florence
Phone: + 39 055 2645364
Address: Via Porta Rossa, 58/R 50123 Florence
Phone: +39 055 293376